Tuesday, October 20, 2009
A young gentleman of pleasing appearance, and from one of our first families, wishes to enter into a correspondence with a lady who is sincere in her intentions to enter into the matrimonial state immediately. She must be young and well educated. Beauty preferred, but not indispensable. Any person possessing the above named qualifications will confer a favor upon the writer by answering immediately. Address Henry Graham, Herald office.
Okay, I have never seen the movie The Bachelor, a fact I am quite happy about, but I know the plot, and this ad is it. Henry did something, somehow, that put him in a position where if he's not married by, like, yesterday, he's going to lose something big. No really - normally I am speculating wildly on this blog, and half the time just writing what I find the most appealing and entertaining - not necessarily what really may have happened. But in this case I feel pretty confident that Henry is frantically trying to get married now. Right now.
Things that are striking: he uses the word "immediately" not once but twice. Dude wants a wife now. Also, she must be young and well-educated, but not attractive. Normally I'd say how sweet that he doesn't care about looks, but the reality is that he just needs someone about his own age who is intelligent enough that he can introduce her to his family who won't be gauche and vulgar. He'd like someone pretty for himself, but he's desperate enough that he'll marry anyone. The last part where he says "confer a favor" is a little less significant; people said that all the time who weren't dire straits; it was just a polite phrase. But it sure does add to the whole desperation theme going on here. Even the text itself feels rushed!
I wonder what he stands to lose? Inheritance? Did he knock up some poor girl and needs a quick marriage before she can somehow tie him down? I wonder if he got answers. I'm sure there were women who wouldn't have minded becoming part of one of the city's "first families," but the tone of this ad is so unmistakable even they might have thought twice. You'd have to be either extremely dense not to get what's going on here, or have extraordinary powers of self-deception.
Although, from what I understand, The Bachelor had a happy ending, so I guess anything's possible...
Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!
©2009 Pam Epstein